It’s been a good run, but Cardfight Vanguard has finally ended. With 370 episodes across both generations that is quite a lot of Cardfights. It’s really comparable to Yugioh at this point. Naturally that franchise has more total episodes and it would be tough to ever match that number, but once you cross 100 episodes you can certainly be counted as a legitimate powerhouse. I’ll be sure to rank all of the Cardfight seasons at the end of the review. Most of them are super close so it’s definitely a tough one to decide. All right, lets dive into Z!
Right away you can tell that this series is going to be intense because you only use the term Z when the series is going to have a ton of action. Vanguard does not disappoint here as action is absolutely what you will be getting. The last season ended with the heroes defeating the main 3 Diffriders and winning the tournament. That may have been good progress in the fight against evil, but Kazumi was never the main threat. The Apostles of Gyze are around now and they need a vessel for their leader. Their plan is unaltered, they want to awaken the 6 Zeroth Dragons to pave the way for Gyze. The members decide to split up and take Team TRY 3 out of the equation pre-emptively. (Pretty smart move honestly) The heroes will have to move quickly to stop their plan and they will need teamwork, but the situation is already quite personal for them so it may be tough to move in with a clear head.
As this season is only 24 episodes (The shortest in the franchise unless you count one of the G seasons that was merged together with another one in the Dub) the plot has to move right away so there is no waiting around here. That’s the bonus of continuing the plot of a previous season. There is no need for build up or character introductions since that was already done last time. As such the villains attack Chrono and Shion within the first 3 episodes. The Apostles really look very impressive from the start here as the heroes just seem like no match at times. The most impressive member would be the one who fought Shion at least when comparing their initial appearances. The show dropped the ball on him a bit though.
Almost every episode has a big fight occurring in this season. As the villains aren’t playing games around you also see a level of desperation among the heroes that hasn’t happened too often in G. At the very least, it usually doesn’t happen quite so soon. One small moment that I really liked here was how Chrono used a Zeroth dragon with no hesitation. Usually when the main character relents and uses the dark power of a villain there is a lot of drama or the character gives it some long thought. Chrono just went for it. For context, he was up against the leader of the Apostles. If he wins this fight he can save his friend and eliminate one of the biggest threats to the world in one move. None of his cards are strong enough at this point, but if he uses one of the evil deity cards that he swiped from another member it will give him a chance.
Dark power like this never comes cheap though. The price for playing a Zeroth Dragon is that if you lose the duel all of your Grade 4 cards will be atomized and so you will be losing all of your strongest cards. It’s a steep penalty since you are essentially powerless in a duel without those. before G you could get away with it since Grade 4s didn’t exist, but now that they do they are absolutely essential. The stakes are high, but it would have almost been selfish of Chrono to not use one just for that. He had a world to protect.
Naturally I was a big fan of Chrono here. He definitely looks like the experienced veteran that he is here. It doesn’t mean that he is now the strongest player in the world but he certainly ranks up there. He takes risks and is always ready to defend his friends. Chrono is the kind of guy that you want on your team for sure. He won’t back down from a duel. Chrono has definitely developed into a character worthy of his mysterious deck.
Shion is still Chrono’s rival but at this point that is rarely evident as he has completely mellowed out into being a friend. I suppose it’s a good change of pace to have a rival who isn’t super rude or obnoxious the whole time. Shion is finally back to being master of the Kiba empire at this point so as you can imagine he feels pretty unbeatable. That’s why his first fight with Valeos was so intense because it was basically unheard of for someone to have the upper hand against Shion. It also showed that the villains recognized him as a legitimate threat. Shion’s role in this season is still rather small but it is a good one nonetheless. He does get his revenge for the earlier loss as well.
Then we have Tokoha who has started to bounce back from the last season. That one didn’t go so well for her as she absorbed quite a few losses and wasn’t really in a right state of mind since Miguel was taken out of the picture. Now she has mainly recovered from this and is back to being a strong contender. Like Shion she doesn’t get too many duels here but still gets to help out in the final battle.
Kazuma certainly has a large role in this season and is probably the most crucial aside from Chrono. Now that he has his brother back Kazuma is ready to take the fight to the villains. While he is a very strong fighter and Kazuma’s confidence is at an all time high, he still isn’t quite ready to take on these villains yet. Things don’t go very well for him, but I do appreciate the attempt. Kazuma still has a cool deck and a nice theme. Couple that with his character development into a more confident character and he is one of the best members of the main cast. At the very least I think he would be second among the main G heroes.
Kazumi was one of the big villains of the last season since he was being possessed but it’s important to remember that he was a world class duelist even before all of that. It is fortunate for the heroes that he is around. Kazumi’s a nice character and you will get some Itachi vibes from him. Unfortunately he doesn’t look great when it comes to dueling. After all, what better shock value can there be than taking down the former Under 20 champion? Winning and losing are t everything though and it doesn’t change the fact that he is quite formidable.
Arata and Makoto are a little important in this season because of what happened to their friend Noa who was possessed by the dark side. Still, they really can’t fight so for the most part they are stuck cheering everyone on in the background. The characters really weren’t needed to be honest but I guess it would be weird if they had just vanished. They aren’t bad characters, they just aren’t ready for a villain of this magnitude.
Noa is one of the big villains and probably the strongest aside from perhaps Gyze. He was in the shadows a lot for the last season but his presence is always felt. He has the Link Joker deck which is still the best one in the series. The monster is the only one who doesn’t just fade away after being defeated or turns good. This guy can’t stand the humans and does his best to bury them. I would have liked Noa to have dueled a little more to be honest, but I’m certainly satisfied with how much effort it took to bring him down. Having Aichi and Kai team up against you is always a sign of respect.
Kouji is definitely an interesting character. I’m still not really a fan of the guy. He is essentially the vanguard of the heroes but his plans never seem to be very good. The villains always have the drop on the heroes and while he may have been very powerful back in the day, Kouji seems a little outmatched against all of the new villains. He has softened up completely into a nice guy, but never likes to admit to it which leads to him always trying to keep to himself. He’s not as bad as in previous seasons as he has finally stopped doubting Chrono’s ability, but the guy just needs to be cooler. Maybe a new costume would have done the trick.
Saori doesn’t last too long in this season as he was mainly a big character in the last season, but he is still a lot of fun here. He still has one of the best battle themes out of all the characters and he is just a tough fighter. Saori has a lot of doubts about what he is doing, but ultimately just stays on his path. The villain’s confidence is really what makes him a fun character.
Aichi finally gets to duel a little more seriously here which is good. In general I still think the original cast didn’t get to do a whole lot compared to what I would have liked to see. They did have 4 seasons (Aichi only had 3) so I guess that was enough fights. I don’t like how Aichi has basically retired from Cardfight but I suppose as long as his skills don’t get rusty he will always come to help out when it counts. Likewise Kai is also here to fight the good fight. He gets 2 big fights against the villains which is good. Wakamizu actually does give him a good fight, but the outcome is what matters and at the end of the day Kai is still one of those guys that you never expect will lose.
Kamui also looks solid here. He has done a good job of keeping up with the other characters over the years. While he isn’t in the top 5 at this point he still helps out a lot against the villains and it’s always nice to see him around. Misaki finally gets a duel of her own. The series took its time with her, but having her take on one of the big final villains was certainly good. I am a little skeptical on her being strong enough to take on this particular opponent, but perhaps her deck was simply well suited from the job. In a duel you never ultimately know who is going to win. Her tactical style does bring out the best from her deck as well.
Valeos is a bit of a tragic case since I actually liked the villain quite a bit. He was a credible threat to the heroes and seemed to be the main thinker of the villains. Going after Shion’s OP sword was brilliant and taking it out of the equation definitely helped their goals get a bit easier. That’s why it makes no sense when he suddenly goes insane near the end. The show was slowly building up to this as we gradually got hints of his psyche decaying, but why did it have to happen at all? It came out of left field and seemed to just be an excuse to let Shion have the upper hand. If he didn’t crack then I don’t really think Shion would have been a match for him. Not sure what to think of this guy by the end but at least he had a great intro.
Gastille is essentially the deputy of the villains. Gyze is certainlty still the leader but while he is out of commission Gastille tends to call the shots. He is a powerful villain, but one who doesn’t get to appear a whole lot. Still, he does really well in his brief appearances and I liked him. He’s still not the best villain since Noa and Saori are around but otherwise he is probably the beast. You get a Ren vibe from the guy with how confident he is. Well…okay all of the Cardfight characters are confident, but they tend to show it in different ways.
Taiyou was one of the big members of Chrono’s team for the last few seasons, but his role in this one is rather small. He gets badly injured after one of the early duels and never really recovers after that. You still have to like the guy’s dedication though. He’s very loyal to helping out the heroes and won’t hesitate to throw himself into harm’s way. He eagerly attacks the villains and while he doesn’t succeed, he did put up a good fight.
Then we have Wakamizu who is probably the least interesting villain. He’s technically pretty smart and the villains would have had a tough time without him, but his deck isn’t quite as good as the others. He’s deceptively strong, but I just didn’t care for the guy much. Not a bad villain, but I suppose he was simply outshined. His master Gredora was certainly more compelling even though her screen time was incredibly limited. At the very least she felt like more of a commander though. She was also a villain who actually cared about her subordinates and quickly went to defend Wakamizu after he was defeated. It’s always nice to see villains who also show loyalty and that’s why Gredora was a villain worthy of an army.
Gyze is the big boss of the series. Naturally this means that he is asleep until near the very end though. He gets 2 duels which isn’t bad, but I would have liked to have seen him more. The guy serves his purpose as a big final boss though and puts up a good fight. He just wasn’t ready to deal with the likes of Team TRY 3. He did come close to destroying the world though and I like how even in defeat the world would get destroyed by the sheer impact that it had on space and time. Gyze is definitely not the kind of opponent who does anything halfway. He did have a pretty cool design and his special ability of bringing in all of the Zeroth Dragons at once is really useful.
As always the animation is certainly stellar. The character designs starting from the last season certainly look really good. Chrono and the others look more experienced than they used to be and they also act accordingly. They get the respect you’d expect them to have considering that they have saved the world a few times now. The duels are as sharp as ever and the colors are vibrant. There is nothing negative at all to say about it. Then the soundtrack is just as impressive. I really like the new bumper/music that comes at the start of each episode. It’s a very dramatic theme that has you keep your guard up. It also really supports the feeling of dread that the heroes have. Each character still has a battle theme and most of them are quite epic. Even the few characters whose theme doesn’t absolutely stand out still have a good one. The best theme is definitely the red haired kid’s, but Kazumi’s is also excellent. You have a lot of options to choose from. Cardfight never disappointed on a technical level (Or any level for that matter) and this last season was no exception.
All right it’s time to rank all of the Cardfight seasons! There have definitely been a lot of great ones over the years so it’s tough. I know the first and last place ones off the top of my head, but the rest get really tough. Still, I gotta make the tough choices at some point so it may as well be now.
1st. Cardfight Vanguard: Link Joker. Pretty easy number 1, this was the best season by far and the season was completely amazing. Really has everything that you could ever want in a single season.
2nd Cardfight Vanguard. The original Cardfight definitely helped get the series on the right track. It’s really rare to see a main character who actually loses as many fights as Aichi. If handled wrong that could have been annoying but overall he learned from his losses and got really good. It was just a great season and is also super nostalgic.
3rd Cardfight Vanguard Asia Circuit. This season probably has less memorable aspects to it compared to the other seasons, but this was the big Psyqualia boom. Everyone had it from Leon to the leader of the kid squad to Ren and Aichi. I still miss Psyqualia to this day so that was a lot of fun and the season was basically nonstop tournaments so you really can’t go wrong there. The climax was also super hype as you would expect.
4th Cardfight Vanguard Legion Mate. This season is tough because I thought it was awesome from the plot to the execution. At the same time it was a little short. I guess 33 episodes is a solid length, but it’s really close between this and NEXT. I’ll give Legion Mate the edge because having Kai as a main character was hype and the loser of each match getting burned was definitely a very real way of raising the stakes.
5th Cardfight Vanguard G NEXT. Definitely the best G season. The tournament was really good and Kazumi was just such an awesome villain It was also really long so we had time for a bunch of fights. We hadn’t had a tournament that was this long and serious since the original Cardfight days. The new animation style also worked quite well for this saga and the first episode was the perfect way to hype up the new villain.
6th Cardfight Vanguard G Z. This season is very close to NEXT, but it mainly loses out because it’s a lot shorter. There’s less chance to quite match the hype that was behind NEXT. Still, a great way to end the series and 6th is certainly nothing to be ashamed about when it’s relative to other Cardfight seasons. A superb show in all aspects.
7th Cardfight Vanguard G Stride Gate. We finally got the payoff to the first G arcs here and it was definitely a lot of fun. I liked the main villain and this is really where Chrono came into his own as a solid main character. He didn’t fall for the mind games of the villains and kept dueling as he knew best.
8th Cardfight Vanguard G: GIRS Crisis. The plot started to get moving with this show, but it was still a little slow. Not a whole lot happened here compared to what you might guess from the title. The heroes were still trying to get recognized as serious fighters here, but it would be a while before the grownups would acknowledge them.
9th Cardfight Vanguard G. Still a very solid show, but pretty much the whole season was just character introductions. While that is similar to the first half of the original Cardfight, we didn’t get a big payoff at the end like the original. There was no Psyqualia equivalent or an antagonist quite as interesting as Ren.
Overall, This was a really great way to end the G part of the series. By the end of its run it had really solidified itself as an excellent show even without the influence of the main series. I currently have Cardfight Vanguard as a whole in my top 5 shows. If we count G separately then it would likely still be in my top 15, perhaps just barely making it into Top 10, but no guarantees there. Throughout the various sagas the characters got a lot of development and we got a bunch of great characters. The animation and music were on point and this show has met the high bar that the card game genre has set. I definitely recommend checking this show out. Honestly, it’s best if you start with either the first G series or the very first season as opposed to starting with Z, but either way you’ll have a blast here. I look forward to seeing the retro season coming up.